We scheduled the evening a couple of weeks in advance of the date. Having visited with our next door neighbors a few times, we planned an evening out for dinner. The plan was simple: they’d come over and we’d drive to an ethnic neighborhood for authentic Chinese food.

Having moved to Atlanta about six months ago, we’ve been meeting new people and learning about the city. Our neighbors moved into the house next door about two months after us. Relocating from the Northeast, they are much like us in building a network of friends and exploring the city where we now live.

On Friday, another couple called and reminded me that it had been several weeks since we saw them. As we talked of the weekend, the only time they could do something with us was Saturday evening. They had met our neighbors at our house warming party, so we agreed that they should just join us. Then another friend joined the group. In the end, a group of seven of us were sitting around a table at a delightful Szechuan Chinese restaurant on Buford Highway outside of Atlanta.

Dishes were passed back and forth as we ate family style. We laughed, told stories, and got to know each other. Toward the end of the meal, various side conversations emerged on various topics: favorite classic movies, favorite songs, books, and current events. At one moment, I sat back in my chair and looked around the table at my friends who were smiling, laughing, and enjoying each other. I thought to myself, “I am so fortunate!”

The last few years have been difficult ones for me. There were times when it seemed that the waters of life were running too fast and deep and that I was having difficulty just treading water. But now the waters have calmed and I have the opportunity to pause and remember what is important to me. As I consider the course of my life, I have a clear sense of gratitude. As I examine my life, I find that I am most thankful for the people I know and have known.

That Saturday night a few weeks ago was really nothing special. It was nothing more than a group of folks going out to dinner. Yet, for me, it was a real gift. The fun, laughter and kindness is something I’ve savored, even more than the meal itself.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve considered how I fortunate I’ve been to have many engaging, delightful, and unique people as part of my life. I appreciate the memories of those whose lives have gone in different directions from mine as well as the people who have remained close to me.

Yesterday, I saw that one of my high school friends – someone I’ve not seen since we graduated in 1975 – posted pictures of a grandchild on Facebook. I wondered if my high school mates know how delighted I am to see the pictures of their families, of vacations, and of personal successes. There were close friends in college, the one who played guitar and had long floppy hair, the other who called everyone “cutie,” and, believe it or not, the one who would quote from the Hebrew scripture’s book of Proverbs to punctuate things like sleeping in and missing class. Do they realize the positive influence they had on me during those formative years? There are many others, some of whom I search for online from time to time and those whom I recall who have passed from this world, whose presence in my life influenced me in ways that they can’t imagine.

As I approach this Thanksgiving, I know that I’m not rich by standards of income. However, I am convinced that because of the people who have been and continue to be part of my life, I am a truly wealthy person.

On this Thanksgiving, I do give thanks for the people who have touched my life. Sometimes that touch was gentle. Yes, sometimes it was more like a smack-upside the head. Whatever the case, I give thanks for the gift of people: they are perhaps the greatest blessing in life of all.

© 2011, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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